A group of Evangelicals recently released a manifesto detailing some goals for Evangelicals today that include recommitting our focus on the Gospel, untangling ourselves from partisan politics, and immersing ourselves in social justice–by way of naming a few points from a rather lengthy and complex document. I appreciate what they’re trying to do and I respect those who wrote and signed it. Evangelicals are such a slippery, diverse, and evolving movement that no one document or group could hope to exhaustively catch every nuance (though some have pointed out faults).
The reason for the Manifesto is as follows:
“For those who are Evangelicals, the deepest purpose of the Manifesto is a serious call to reform—an urgent challenge to reaffirm Evangelical identity, to reform Evangelical behavior, to reposition Evangelicals in public life, and so rededicate ourselves to the high calling of being Evangelical followers of Jesus Christ.”
Not a bad goal. Not a bad document from what I’ve read and read about it. Not a bad call for the leaders who wanted to set a new course since leaders are supposed to stick their necks out, take the lead, and let others follow. On the plus side, we now have an official document we can point to if we’re accused of being too political or lacking in compassion. We can now say, “Look, we’ve got people trying to steer us on a new course.” It’s worth a shot!
While we could pick this thing apart all day and snipe at bits and pieces… I have one concern. Do we really think America is the center of Christianity today? Well, it’s the center of the magazine Christianity Today, but I’m wondering if India, South Africa, and heck the whole continent of South America may have something to teach us since there are plenty of Evangelicals there (Mark Knoll says as much in beginning of The Rise of Evangelicalism). The Evangelical movement may have started in Europe and then moved over to America, but we’re not the only ones living this stuff.
When the Nicene Creed was written, Christians from all over the known world gathered together. Travel was tough and treacherous in those days. With e-mail it wouldn’t be that hard to include some global voices in the statement. I’m guessing we would have ended up with a better notion of how to mix faith and justice together and a lot more about the role of the Holy Spirit. Just a hunch.
It’s funny, we really want to change the course of Evangelicalism in America, but we’re not seeking help from those who can help us the most. Ah, the American “can-do” spirit!